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Success with NWO for social and behavioural scientists

Ten Leiden social and behavioural scientists have successfully applied for the NWO Open Competition. With this Open Competition, NWO gives researchers the chance to start small, high-risk, innovative or promising research projects.

Youth mental health meets big data analytics: Hype or Hope?

Moji Aghajani - Education and Child Studies

Depression and anxiety disorders among young people are reaching epidemic proportions, causing major emotional/social/economic problems for millions of young people worldwide. Nevertheless, we do not know very well what neurological, biological, and psychosocial mechanisms are involved, making effective prevention/intervention virtually impossible. According to experts, there is an urgent need for a paradigm shift, focusing more on individual patient and personalised analyses, using artificial intelligence and large neuro-bio-psychosocial datasets ("big data"). This proof-of-concept project seeks to test this paradigm shift within an existing clinical consortium (±10,000 participants), in order to confirm or refute its relevance for personalised care (diagnosis/prognosis/risk).

Coming of Age on Instagram

John Boy - Cultural Anthropologie and Development Sociology

While research often theorises about young adults and their social media use, this project will theorise with them. It will better map how this age group (between 19-25) shapes, experiences and manages their use of Instagram, by building on their own expertise of experience. The project will experiment with a unique mix of methodologies to better map this phenomenon, such as ethnographic methodology, open data and citizen science. In doing so, it will enrich academic knowledge and societal debate.

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The Peace Quartet. How playing music together shapes prosocial behavior

Niels van Doesum - Psychology

Making music together can contribute to peace. This is the hopeful idea behind initiatives in which young musicians from conflict zones come together to give concerts. A well-known example is the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. However, we do not know if and especially how it works. One possible explanation is that a good performance requires concentrated listening to each other, which may ultimately lead to greater mutual understanding. Participants will better understand the perspective of the other and experience each other less as enemies. In a masterclass setting, I will investigate this experimentally by comparing young musicians with a control group.

Optimizing sample size in psychological science through sequential analyses

Tom Heyman - Psychology

When you want to make a statement about a population (e.g. all people in the world), you need to make sure you draw a large enough sample, but you also don't want to spend money and waste time unnecessarily. This project investigates how to arrive at an optimal sample size using so-called sequential analyses. To this end, existing data from published studies within psychology will be re-analysed to see how to do it more efficiently in the future, and whether sequential testing can have an impact on the resulting research results.

Intellectual self-regulation, academic labor, and scholarly publishing as a business: Theorizing the political economy of peer review

Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner - CWTS

Peer review is widely regarded as a flawed process in need of reform. At the same time, it has rarely been the subject of inductive theorisation. This project aims to enable a new conceptual view of the systemic problems of peer review. To this end, it will analyse how peer review as a cognitive operation is shaped by its economic organisation. Namely: as a form of academic labour embedded in various incentive structures and in commercial structures of scientific publication. Empirically, the project will be based on interviews with editors and reviewers from three different journals/publication platforms in psychology, each with a distinct profile.

The social nature of conspiracy thinking

Gert-Jan Lelieveld - Psychology

This research posits that conspiracy thinking has an important social function for connecting with others. The first aim is to test whether being socially excluded causes people to endorse conspiracy theories to fulfil their need to belong. The second aim is to examine whether adopting conspiracy beliefs is indeed an effective way for excluded individuals to reduce exclusion feelings. Conspiracy thinking can reduce feelings of exclusion by the group of conspiracy thinkers, but may actually fuel feelings of exclusion by society. By examining determinants and consequences of conspiracy thinking, this research provides crucial insights into ways to reduce conspiracy thinking.

Through the revolving door? An analysis of post-parliamentary careers in the Netherlands

Tim Mickler - Political Science

After ending their parliamentary membership, some MPs move directly into attractive positions elsewhere, in sectors they were previously involved in as policymakers. This creates the perception that MPs use their public office to further their private careers. Is this impression correct? Using a large-scale quantitative analysis of Dutch MPs, this project offers insights into the relationship between the political experience and network built by MPs during their mandate and the likelihood of certain post-parliamentary positions and relations. The results provide empirical evidence related to the public debate on parliaments as a 'career stepping stone'.

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Issue Competition at the Local Level

Simon Otjes - Political Science

The central government recently transferred tasks to municipalities. The assumption below was that local politics would respond to social problems, such as long-term unemployment. However, this has not yet been studied. My central question is: "to what extent and when do parties at the local level respond to social issues in a municipality?" I will study this across all Dutch municipalities between 2014 and 2022. First, I will investigate the relationship between social issues and parties' priorities in local election programmes. Second, I will analyse the relationship between those party priorities and the behaviour of these parties in municipal councils.

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It takes two to tango: The two mechanisms by which exposure to a novel environment can promote memory

Judith Schomaker - Psychology

When you visit a new place, it is important to learn about that environment quickly to avoid dangerous places and find rewards on a future visit. Research in animals has shown that exposure to a new environment improves memory and that both the dopamine and noradrenaline systems underlie these effects. Although positive effects of novelty on memory have also been found in humans, the neurobiological mechanisms have not yet been investigated. The aim of this project is to investigate whether dopamine and noradrenaline also play a role in the positive effects of novelty on memory in humans.

Picture this! Exploring the effects of clinicians’ helpful and harmful communication behaviours on patients’ brain activity and brain connectivity

Liesbeth van Vliet - Psychology

Physician-patient communication affects patients' psychological (e.g. anxiety) and cognitive (e.g. remembering information) outcomes. We do not know whether communication also affects neurobiological outcomes. In this project, we aim to unravel the neurobiological basis of communication. In the setting of advanced cancer, we investigate how helpful and harmful communication affects patients' brain activity and brain connectivity. We do this by showing 15 healthy subjects communication videos while in an MR scanner. This study opens a new area of research merging the worlds of communication and neurobiology, and helps strengthen the evidence behind communication.

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